A suspect in the deaths of at least four children in eMbalenhle has been arrested. Themba Shongwe appeared in the Evander magistrates court on Monday, 14 January, on several charges including Murder, Rape, Kidnapping, Attempted Rape, Attempted Kidnapping and Attempted Robbery. The case has been postponed until Tuesday 15 January. The Bulletin reported on several occasions about children that disappeared in eMbalenhle and were later found murdered. The names of the four children are: Mihle Zinganto, Cynthia Masilela, Leranto Nkutha and Nokulunga Nkutha. Mihle Zinganto was found murdered in November 2018 and Leranto Nkutha was found murdered in May of 2018. Cynthia Masilela and Nokulunga Nkutha were found murdered in 2017. The following is an excerpt from the article in the Bulletin dated 18 May 2018:
“At about 06:45 on 9 May, the police received a complaint from a member of the community who claimed that there was a body lying in one of the yards in extension 15 eMbalenhle.
The police went to the scene and the body was identified as that of the missing child, Leranto Nkutha, who was 11 years old. The body was certified dead on the scene and it was discovered that her lower lip was missing. All role players were summoned to the scene.
The community of eMbalenhle is outraged at the death of Nkutha, with many of them crying out for something to be done. Social media is swarming with not only messages of condolence to the family, but the urge for the community to take matters into their own hands. At the moment, it is not clear what this would entail.“
The parking area outside the court in Evander was packed with people singing and chanting against Themba Shongwe. The courtroom was packed with friends and relatives of the deceased children and when Shongwe returned to the holding cells they started shouting at him. There was also a lot of finger pointing at him.
One informant told the Bulletin that the story that is told in eMbalenhle of how they found him is as follows: “Someone wanted to borrow a wheelbarrow. He approached Shongwe’s mother and she showed him a wheelbarrow in the shed. The person found a child’s shoe in the wheelbarrow. He took it to one of the parents of the murdered children that recognised the shoe. The community continued to burn Shongwe’s house.”
The SAPS took Shongwe into custody for his own protection. Shongwe was later released and stayed at one of his relatives. He was arrested over the weekend.
The Bulletin reported on members of the Police services, NPA and other structures laying flowers and a symbolic stone at the scenes where the victims were found. They were all within a very short distance from Shongwe’s home.